When I sat down last week to speak to Simon Kinberg, the co-writer and producer of X-Men: Days of Future Past, I knew I had a duty (to you guys reading this) to ask about the new Fantastic Four movie he's also written for Fox.
Beyond duty, though, I was feeling personally driven to find out as much about Days of Future Past as I could, particularly the process that saw this storyline selected and how Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman had adapted it.
Here's what Kinberg had to tell me. To start with, I asked why superhero filmmakers, particularly those work on the X-Men, were going about the adaptation of pre-existing comics for so many of their movies.
Because they're so in good. Well, in some cases because they're so good. There are certain story lines from the original comics that I don't know we could beat, in terms of how they weave so much thematic and so many of the characters into them.
And I think, for me personally, I have so much affection for some of those story lines and I remember the feeling I had when I read them for the first time, that there is an extra thrill in adapting them – and I mean adapting, not translating them, obviously there's many places that we diverge from the original stories.
The X-Men movies have for a while now had a slightly different philosophy, they're not just following character, they do tend to follow specific stories: Dark Phoenix, First Class, The Wolverine movie did. We're about to it again with Apocalypse.
When you are adapting, of course, you're adapting to a different medium. There are different requirements in film from comics. Part of it is that you have to tell a coherent story in two hours, whereas with a book you have multiple issues, sometimes hundreds of issues to tell an extended story.
Specifically with Kitty Pryde, when we talked about Days of Future Past the first question was "Do we send Kitty back in time?" We really wanted it to be someone's consciousness that gets sent back in time, not their body like Terminator, and the second you make that decision, which was an important one to us, it can't be Kitty because we cast Ellen Page in X-Men 3 and she'd be negative twenty in the time of Fassbender and McAvoy.
When we were making First Class, during post production, Matthew and I started talking about what a sequel would be. Days of Future Past was not our first instinct, we were just going to follow the story of the young X-Men into whatever their next adventure would be.
When the studio suggested using Ian and Patrick in the film I had the idea of Days of Future Past and Matthew loved the idea, really embraced it. Then Matthew, Jane and I spent time together, essentially breaking the story together. We did a ten page outline for the movie, laying it out, and that would have been in about May of 2012.
Then I went off, when I was hired as the writer, on my own, and I wrote the script by myself. But during the process of writing it, I got stumped. I had a block in the middle of the movie, and I was at Comic Con, Jane happened to be there, I happened to be there, the summer of 2012, and I asked "Jane, I'm dying with this one plot point, I can't talk to anybody about it, can I just take you to lunch?" We had a long, three hour lunch talking about plenty of other things but this one thing specifically, and she really helped me break through and restructure some things in the script.
We had it in our outline that Erik would try to kill Raven much later in the movie and I felt like we were trading water from the point where she had actually gotten away from them in Paris. Something was wrong there, the movie was stutter-stepping, and by the end of the lunch, and it was just a combination of talking about it and bouncing ideas back and forth, we got up and I looked at Jane and I said "Well, the mid-point of the movie is Erik trying to kill Raven."
I finished the script in August of 2012, I delivered it to Matthew, he read it, liked it, had some notes and so I did another draft for him. It was now early September. Matthew had always been ambivalent about directing a sequel to his own movie, and I think that – combined with whatever else – was enough for him to say "I'm not going to direct this movie" even though he loved the script. He felt a lot of ownership over the script, as he should. And then we went to Bryan and said, "Hey, this is the X-Men movie of all X-Men movies, you created the franchise, do you want to come back and direct it, not just produce it?"
And this is when I asked Kinberg, categorically, if an X-Men and Fantastic Four crossover movie was anywhere in the pipeline at all. His comments on the matter have been taken both ways, before now, and so I wanted to get the most solid, straight-up answer he'd give me. I wanted to eradicate all ambiguity if at all possible, and the fact that he still clung desperately onto it probably tells you all you need to know. Here's what he said.
It's so complicated because they exist in different universes so the Fantastic Four that we're creating is it's own Fantastic Four. It has to be.
I kept pushing.
Down the line, could there be a crossover? It'd be amazing, but it'd also be complicated.
Oh, there will be. The twinkle in his eye said so, not to mention the tone of his voice, and the fact that he refused to say "There won't be an X-Men and Fantastic Four crossover movie" when I offered the option to him.
Anyway, it's besides the point in many ways. Let's enjoy the film he has coming out this week for now.
Thanks again to Kinberg for taking the time to talk to me. X-Men: Days of Future Past is in UK cinemas this Thursday, US cinemas on Friday. I think you're very likely to rather enjoy this one.